Richmond Seeks to Bridge the Digital Divide

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News Report • Nancy Deville

The days when homework only required lined notebook paper, a No. 2 pencil and a bulky thick textbook are long gone. Now teachers assign homework that requires Internet access.

But when parents like Lourdes Avila can’t find room in the monthly budget for Internet service, they fear their kids will fall behind.

“We looked into getting Wi-Fi but it’s just so expensive,” said Avila, whose son Alejandro is a rising sophomore at Richmond High School. “Even if there’s a special when the prices go up after a month, it’s just not affordable for us. So far my son’s teachers have been pretty understanding but I worry about what will happen next school year. I try and get him as much help as I can.”

When Alejandro needs Internet access to finish a homework assignment, he’s forced to stay late after school or wait in line at the Richmond Public Library to use a computer.

City officials are working to help ease Richmond’s digital divide by providing free Internet service in underserved neighborhoods. One million dollars will be drawn from Chevron’s $90 million community benefits package to fund the initiative. No timeline is set for when the community Wi-Fi project will launch, as it will depend on when the funds will be allocated, city officials said. But the first phase will start in the Iron Triangle where more than 2,000 homes, or 40 percent of the neighborhood, are without broadband.

“There is a saturation of homes that are already paying for service, but we are looking to assist the community members that currently don’t have Internet access,” said Sue Hartman, information technology director for the city of Richmond.

“Internet shouldn’t be throttled with limited bandwidth for underserved communities and greater bandwidth for the folks that can afford it.”

Last year Building Blocks for Kids provided antennas that offer free Internet to a few households in the Iron Triangle. The city’s program would expand the Wi-Fi offerings.

The city’s broadband program will coincide with West Contra Costa Unified School District’s plan to distribute tablets to students starting in 2016-17 school year.

“Several other Bay Area cities have focused on external community Wi-Fi but Richmond is working to bring free wireless Internet inside the home,” Hartman said.

While the digital divide has narrowed dramatically in the past decade, one in five households in California still doesn’t have Internet access at home, according to a statewide Field Poll released last month. The findings reveal that those least likely to have Internet access at home are adults who have not graduated from high school, seniors, adults with disabilities, Spanish-speaking Latinos, low-income households and non-citizens. According to the poll, 79 percent of California adults have high-speed Internet at home, which is up from 55 percent since 2008.

The divide can also be traced to educational outcomes, a problem known as the “homework gap.” It’s an issue teachers are trying to balance. As they work to integrate technology into the classroom to better prepare students for the real world where computer skills are mandatory, teachers also don’t want to penalize those whose parents can’t afford Wi-Fi service at home.

“The district has done a lot to make sure students have equitable access to technology in schools so that gap is closing,” said Ben Gill, who teaches information technology at De Anza High School. “At-home Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity and it really comes down to the haves and have-nots.”

Gill says he runs a paperless classroom and it can be hard for some to keep up.

“Those students that don’t have that broadband connection at home, they get creative and use their smartphones for a lot of stuff. But a lot of time, they can’t. So they end up behind and have to stay after school and have to give up other extra-curricular activities.

“A kid shouldn’t have to make the choice of playing football or doing their homework after school just because they don’t have broadband access at home.”

Finding Power

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By Ronvel Sharper

The Young Men’s Empowerment Group at Richmond High School, led by counselors Kawal Ulaneday and Lakeyssia Brown, taught me how to react in bad times, helped me when I felt trapped and made me—and the other people in my group—more conscious of our decisions and how we make them.

When I first joined this group, I didn’t really see the purpose in it. I didn’t think I would need it, because I didn’t think I’d ever be depressed or encounter situations so bad that I couldn’t help myself. I was wrong.

Since it began in 2013, the group has provided support and healing for youth who have experienced complex, traumatic experience in their lives. It is funded by the City of San Pablo and functions as a partnership between YMCA of the East Bay and the high school, to provide counseling services out of the campuses’ health center.

Ulaneday says the group is like a circle at school, where students can feel safe to be vulnerable and share their experience.

For me, it’s like therapy. We talk about our day and week, usually something different each time. At one meeting we talked about what inspires us, everyone listed masculine inspirational figures, but I said I was inspired by the ‘Powerpuff Girls.’ Rather than being teased for these feminine role models, I was accepted—one guy even said he’s also inspired by them. In addition, we also discuss how to help the community and let out anger in a productive way.

“We try to create safety for them and a feeling of connection with others,” said Ulaneday of the environment the leaders aim to establish for us students. “Symptoms of trauma can really affect young men’s ability to form relationships and also with having healthy sense of self.”

Recently, I found myself in a complicated situation in need of honest advice. If I hadn’t been part of the group I could’ve lost some great friends. But the guys offered practical help and now all I can say to them and the staff members is, “Thank you.”

 

Demonstrators Call for UC Campus to Benefit Richmond

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News Report • Keisa Reynolds | Photos • David Meza

Hundreds of people rallied in front of City Hall on June 4 to support a community benefits agreement for the proposed UC Berkeley Global Campus in Richmond.

UC Berkeley’s new campus will be the biggest economic development to come to Richmond since the shipyards of World War II. However, it presents a risk to locals because past projects have not benefited residents, according to Melvin Willis of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) who emceed the demonstration.

The community benefits agreement would allow residents to benefit from the economic and educational opportunities the new campus will bring.

The demonstration was led by Raise Up Richmond, a campaign started by a coalition of local leaders, clergy, families and students.

DSC_0146City council members Gayle McLaughlin, Jael Myrick, Eduardo Martinez, and Jovanka Beckles made remarks in support of the agreement. West Contra Costa School Board member Valerie Cuevas, Tony Alexander from California State Conference and NAACP, and Enedina Mendoza from Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO) were also among the speakers.

On April 30, UC Berkeley students occupied the administration building after Chancellor Nicholas Dirks refused to sign a community benefits agreement. In the Richmond Standard on May 25, Mayor Tom Butt wrote a response to an article written by Alice Huffman and reassured residents and supporters that UC Berkeley would enter legally binding agreements.

However, some fear that the agreement will not benefit residents of Richmond.

The family of Rev. Dr. Alvin Bernstine of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church migrated to Richmond during World War II. “I stand on the shoulders of people who, over 70 years ago, were invited to participate in making ships,” he told the crowd. “[After the war] they built churches and businesses. They established [our] community, always believing Richmond and the Bay Area would see value in including them in the benefits of California living.”

Elements of the community benefits agreement approved by Raise Up Richmond include housing, jobs, training, small businesses, and education. But the Global Campus is likely to increase gentrification and displacement of longtime residents. To prevent that, community members say, the agreement should include an anti-displacement fund that guarantees affordable housing and protects longtime residents from eviction that would result from project development.

For Stephanie Hervey, rent increases have made it difficult to find a one-bedroom apartment in Richmond within her budget.

“I support the community standing up for their selves and for the people who are here. I think it’s in our best interests to be at the table. If you’re not the table, you’re on the menu. The fact that it’s unifying us, it’s making us stronger so that when we do have the opportunity to benefit from whatever’s here, we can enjoy it.”

“I want to see more jobs, more participation within the community, and more resources to help Richmond get back the way it was,” added Cordell Hindler, another resident. “I want this community to benefit from this ordeal.”

Speakers at the rally also discussed opportunities for higher education, saying that children and youth in Richmond deserve access to the resources UC Berkeley is able to offer. Council member McLaughlin noted that there are still not enough youth graduating high school and attending college. Raise Up Richmond has called for the community benefits agreement to include an Opportunity and Education Fund to help build career pathways for kindergarten to twelfth grade students and community college students.

Pastor Joan Thompson-Katzenberger from New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in North Richmond said there is a need for the campaign. “The community as a whole needs it. I look at the young people and they need what we had. They are the future generation,” she said, adding that the agreement would enrich lives. “I just want to see a change. If we provide the opportunity, change will come.”

UC President Urges State To Fund Expanded Enrollment

NAM: More students of color are graduating from California high schools than ever before who want to go to college. That’s good news. Is UC able to accommodate the demand?

Napolitano: We’re seeing increasing numbers of California high school students graduating…and they’re increasingly diverse. The fastest growing are Latinos, but we’re also seeing growth in applications from Asian Americans – Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese and others. More and more students are taking the required courses so they’re eligible and they’re applying. We want to enroll as many of these students as we can.

NAM: What are you asking the state to do? 

Napolitano: We have a plan that would enable us to meet the demand. We’ve asked the legislature to increase state funding by $50 million this year and $50 million next year to expand in-state student enrollment by 10,000 students over the next four years.

NAM: What’s your read on what the legislature will do?

Napolitano: Sacramento has realized that higher education has to be a priority. I’m sympathetic to the legislators because they have so many conflicting demands.Nonetheless when you look at the prison budget and compare it to higher education, that needs to change. The legislators have the opportunity to expand enrollment to the best university in the world.

NAM: There’s some concern that students who do get accepted don’t get their first choice of campuses…They want to go to UC-Berkeley or UCLA but they are assigned to Merced.

Napolitano: The schools in the UC system are at different levels of maturation. The student experience at Merced is exceptional because it’s the newest campus and a smaller student body. Students who attend are pioneers, building the kind of legacy that the older campuses already have. The number one major at Merced is biology – so it’s drawing large numbers of students who want to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).

NAM: UC is the premiere institution training the future educated class in California. What are you seeing that encourages you and what worries you?

Napolitano: Some 42% of our students are first-generation collegestudents. That’s an astounding number. Our applications are at record high numbers led by the growth in Latinos and Asians… I am worried about our African American communities. The number of African Americans going to four year colleges is dropping across the nation, particularly African American males. The dramatic increase in Latino enrollment reflects in part the growth in that population. That’s not been true for African Americans.

NAM: Is UC actively involved in trying to address these disparities?

Napolitano: We’re actively reaching out to communities across the state. There are so many families that think they can’t afford UC. We’re letting them know that we offer substantial financial aid…We’re also doing a lot with community colleges., We have identified community colleges that aren’t sending many students to UC campuses and we’re looking to expand that effort.

NAM: Many middle class parents feel their children won’t get into the UC—they’re not poor enough to get scholarships and they’re not rich enough to afford it.

Napolitano: Housing costs are a key factor since a number of our campuses are located in very affluent areas like La Jolla and Santa Cruz. We’re looking to build more housing dorm units. We’re also actively looking at ways to ensure students don’t graduate with debts, although I always remind students that getting a diploma with debt is very different than buying a new car with debt. With the diploma the value only increases, whereas the car loses value the minute you drive it out of the dealership.

NAM: More women are now enrolled in college than men. Are you seeing an emerging gender gap in UC admissions, with women on the ascendance and does that worry you?

Napolitano: That’s an important question. I want to look into that.

NAM: There’s some concern that foreign students and out of state students are taking up the slots of in-state students. What’s your perspective?

Napolitano: Foreign students, out of state students, enrich the entire college experience. UC is very much a global university.
I like to say that we teach for California, we research for the world.

NAM: CP Snow’s Two Cultures 70 years ago warned against an imbalance between science and the humanities in our culture. Today, we are witnessing technology in the ascendance, and the humanities feeling very threatened. What’s UC doing to address this?

Napolitano: One of our goals has to be to produce well educated people. There’s no question that students graduating with a computer engineering degree will earn more money
than the student with a degree in English. But there’s more to life than how much money someone makes.

NAM: What’s your greatest source of satisfaction after two years as UC president?

Napolitano: Furthering the mission of educating today’s students. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, and this is the most satisfying.

For more information, go to http://www.uc4ca.org

Q&A: How Principal Evans Helped De Anza Set the Gold Standard

Interview • Malcolm Marshall

photo credit: De Anza High School

photo credit: De Anza High School

EDITOR’S NOTE: Richmond’s De Anza High School recently received a Gold Ribbon Schools Award from the California Department of Education. The award recognizes schools that have made gains implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education.

According to the West Contra Costa Unified School District website, De Anza has seen significant improvement in several key indicators in recent years, including a nearly 5 percent increase in its graduation rate and a nearly 10 percent reduction in its dropout rate.

Richmond Pulse interviewed De Anza principal Robert Evans at a recent school board meeting where he and members of his staff were honored for the achievement. Evans says teaching remains his first love. He arrived at De Anza five years ago to “give back to the Bay Area community and try to help raise kids the proper way.”

Richmond Pulse: What is the most important thing you brought to De Anza?

Robert Evans: The biggest thing we lacked was developing relationships. My philosophy is once you’ve built relationships, then we collaborate to have communication. I don’t care how smart a kid is, I don’t care how difficult a parent is; once you break down the walls and develop trust, everybody can work together to collaborate and you come out successful, because then you develop into [a] community as a team.

RP: How do you define success?

RE: We talk about teaching the full student. It’s got to be academics, obviously; but you have social skills, athletic skills, you’ve got to find out — whether it be music skills, visual performing arts — what drives a kid, each kid. That means you’ve got to get personal, to understand what drives each child and what those strengths are, their passions. Why do they want to come to school? You have to give children a reason to want to come to school every day, so [that] it’s exciting. When we did that, we saw our attendance rate go up. The kids want to be there.

With teachers, my philosophy is to point them [to] their passion — because if it’s their passion, it’s not work for them. All I do is just kind of corral them and point them in the right direction and let them go.

RP: What has changed the most on campus?

RE: I see a change in the culture, kids focusing on their academic grades, because now on campus it’s cool to be smart. It’s not cool to be dumb. They’re like, “I’ve got my 4.3, I’ve got my 3.8.” Struggling kids going, “Mr. Evans, I got a 1.9, I got to get to a 2.” Having over 50 percent of your kids make honor roll and the principal’s list, that means over 50 percent are over 3.0 and 3.5. Those are the things I’m excited to see.

RP: So many teachers and administrators burn out over time. Where do you get your passion from?

RE: It’s just been very exciting for me. I just go 100 miles an hour, whether it’s in the morning or late at night. We do a lot of things at football games, basketball games, soccer games — you try to be at all of those different types of things. Then you’ve got to focus on them in the classroom as well. You look at every single kid and say, “Which way do they learn? What’s their learning modality?” Then you have to take an array of teaching strategies and match those things.

It’s the same thing with my staff. I look for staff that that have excitement. You’ve got to be motivated. I tell teachers all the time it’s like being on stage: You’ve got to go 100 percent all the time, because you’re “on”. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of strength — but whatever it takes, you’ve got to do that.

RP: You are now moving on to work in the district office. What’s next for you?

RE: Since I just officially got a new promotion into the district office, my role now is to help move the [entire] secondary program of West Contra Costa in the same direction that we took De Anza. I’m going to be the coordinator of educational services in the secondary schools.

RP: Is it bittersweet to leave De Anza?

RE: Yeah, it is. When you’ve had a family that you’ve really been excited for, you don’t like leaving. But at the same time, it’s an opportunity to help more of the district. It was like when I left teaching: I was a teacher, and then I became an assistant principal to help the school overall. So now [it’s] just a larger role, and I can help more people.

What Are Students Eating? A Teen Research Team Looks To Find Out

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By Chanelle Ignant

A team of high school students from across the West Contra Costa Unified School District is asking: “What are we eating?”

Teens from the nonprofit group YES Nature To Neighborhoods have conducted a research project into the nutrition of meals served in the district’s 11 high schools.

Gustavo Chavez, a sophomore at De Anza High School and member of the organization’s “youth engagement team”, said many of his peers don’t prefer the school meals, a view that inspired the eight-student team to get involved.

“A lot of people really dislike them, so we tried to figure out what’s inside of them and how can we change them to make them better,” said Chavez.

According to Chavez, this push to improve lunches reflects the connection between nutrition and academic performance.

“We want better quality school lunches, so that kids aren’t going through their day without nutrition, so that they can perform better,” he said.

According to Director of Food Services, Barbara Jellison, over 3.3 million lunches were served to students throughout WCCUSD during the 2013-2014 school year. With an impact this great, the Richmond Food Policy Council — which works to ensure that the local food system reflects the needs of the community — described the district’s cafeteria system as “the biggest restaurant in the county”.

Students, however, say the restaurant doesn’t please its patrons.

Most kids don’t eat school lunches,” said Gillian Linsy, a senior at Pinole Valley High School and fellow member of the Youth Participatory Action Research project, an annual program at YES that focuses on wellness in the Richmond community. “They would rather bring something from home or not eat at all.”

The project intends to address this disconnect.

“The ultimate goal is to raise awareness and put pressure on the administration to continue to work towards healthy lunch for all the students,” said Adam Smith, assistant youth coordinator for the team.

For their research, students used pictures of lunches to create a photo-voice presentation. They also interviewed Jellison, as well as cafeteria staff throughout the district about the process of making lunches.

The students, however, said the staff couldn’t answer some of their questions.

“Sometimes they wouldn’t even know,” said Chavez. “Not even the cafeteria members know how the food is made.”

The students also researched the nutrition of the food served each week — and discovered that they couldn’t find the information online.

Likewise, the district’s limited financial resources surprised researchers the most. According to their findings, schools have $3 per student for a lunch — but half of that goes to labor.

“Only about $1.50 for students, just to eat a full lunch,” Chavez said. “That’s their main meal [for the day].”

Team members continue to compile their findings, and plan to share them with the local food council as part of its campaign for healthy school food.

This year’s research project joins a similar student project last year by the Urban Nutrition Initiative, the youth leadership arm of the Bay Area Resource Center. Those students, mostly from Gompers Continuation High School, also investigated the district’s school lunch quality, interviewing their peers about cafeteria food.

Claire Zurlo, youth coordinator at the resource center, said last year’s project gave students the opportunity to reach out beyond their small campus.

“It was helpful for them to do something that impacted the rest of the district,” she said.

Linsy confirmed that students are happy to make a difference.

“I think that just getting our voices heard is big, and hopefully [we’re] making a change,” she said.

Students Weigh In On School Spending Priorities

Compiled By David Meza

At a recent town hall meeting, West Contra Costa Unified School District students had the chance to give their direct input into how educational money should be spent for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.

The April 16 meeting at Helms Middle School in San Pablo, also gave students information about the Local Control Funding Formula, the new state law put into effect in 2013 that dramatically reformed the way California funds its schools — focusing on high-need students, such as those from low incomes, English learners and foster youth.

As part of the new law, school districts must develop a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which requires school districts to engage parents and students before finalizing plans for spending priorities.

Richmond Pulse asked students at the town hall about the needs of their schools and how they would like to see money spent. Students said they want more engagement with their schools and more effective ways of learning.

 

DSC_0004“I think the money should go towards training for teachers. Teachers have their credentials, but professional development can teach them how to teach their students better.”

Darell Waters, 17, Gompers High School

 

DSC_0005“I’m a community person, so I think that we need to mix the community and school together. I want to see programs and clubs that get funding so students can go out and volunteer and represent our school and our district.”

Francisco Ortiz, 17, Kennedy High School

 

DSC_0024“I definitely think the money should go towards the academies. They help students prepare for careers they want to seek in the future. They are trying to close the ROTC academy, so I’m working with some students to make sure it stays open.”

Dayjah Burton, 16, DeAnza High School

 

DSC_0007“A lot of the money should go to more clubs and after-school activities that would get us interested [in] getting work done but having fun at the same time. Something like combining sports and a science project. I know my generation is lazy, so I feel if we use social media, or technology, and tie it into our schoolwork, that would help us concentrate more.”

Isaiah Noel Johnson, 16, Gompers High School

 

DSC_0012“For my school, I think books and after-school activities like clubs. For example [in] my chemistry class, we never have enough books for everyone. After school, I think we have an extra credit program, but I think more things to do after school would be good for us.”

– Ashley Raylene Samano, 17, Gompers High School

 

When Richmond Men Read, Kids Listen

By Nancy DeVille

When Ron Shaw stood up to read the children’s book, “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears,” his audience — second-graders at North Richmond’s Verde Elementary School — stared, giggled and raised their hands to ask questions.

Shaw thumbed through the pages of the West African tale, reading the colorful story about a mosquito who tells a lie to an iguana and annoys him. By the end of the story, the youngsters tugged at Shaw’s leg, their way of thanking him for coming to their class.

Shaw joined about 15 others who gathered at Verde for the Real Men Read program, in which men from a variety of professions, many who grew up in Richmond, have signed up to read in classrooms once a month. The program, part of a national initiative, has entered its second year at Verde.

The volunteers, mostly African American, offer a familiar message: Reading represents the foundation for all learning.

“This is nourishment for the kids, and letting them know that men do read and reading is fun,” Shaw said. “I always have a very good experience with the young people and I’ve been doing this the last two years.”

This year readers have visited the same class each month, allowing them to forge relationships with the students, while teachers select the books to reinforce what the students are already learning. Organizers say the volunteers become instant heroes for the children, who may not have someone to read to them at home, and that the program shows boys that men in all professions read for both work and relaxation.

“This is my responsibility,” Shaw said. “We are supposed to serve our kids, and whatever is going to make it better for them, we need to do it. Reading is a gift, and we’re letting students know that it can be fun and exciting.”

The program at Verde, launched by Rev. Cassandry Keys of the Davis Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, intends to put more men into the schools and in front of kids, some of whom lack positive male role models.

“Hopefully these readers will become mentors and give them hope that they can have a future outside of their current environment,” Keys said. “If we can get them interested in reading in elementary, those habits will continue in junior high and high school.”

She said she hopes other churches will consider partnering with Richmond elementary schools to continue the initiative across the city.

This school year, administrators have committed to improving literacy after testing revealed that student lagged two to three years behind grade level in reading skills. The Real Men Read program represents additional support, and school officials say students are checking more books out of the library and want to read more.

In February, Verde students read 2.4 million words — up from 1.2 million the month before. In March, students read 4.5 million words. Teachers say the students are voluntarily reading more books and that classroom disciplinary actions have declined.

“This is really showing my students that reading is a part of your life,” said Merrill Pierce, who teaches fourth and fifth grades at Verde. “They are just listening and there is no need for behavioral management. This year so many people have come together to make reading the focus of the school, and the kids are so into it. My students care about how many words they are reading.”

Who Will Benefit From Berkeley Campus at Richmond Bay?

By Melvin Willis | Photo by Alice Kantor

A new UC Berkeley campus being planned for Richmond must take into account the needs of the city’s residents. That’s the message the Richmond City Council sent UC Berkeley last month, when the council called on UC Berkeley to sign a community benefits agreement.

The agreement now awaits the signature of UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

But Richmond residents aren’t just waiting quietly. This week, about 30 people – some of whom stripped to their underwear — disrupted a UC Regents meeting to demand that UC sign the agreement with Richmond, the Daily Bruin reports.

Their concern is that the massive new campus, which has the potential to bring jobs and opportunity to Richmond, could also drive up housing prices so high that residents will be forced to leave the city.

The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay by 2050, approved last year by the University of California Board of Regents, would be the largest economic development to come to Richmond since the shipyards of World War II. The campus is expected to be three-quarters the size of the University of California at Berkeley.

UC Berkeley is planning to build the campus at the Richmond Field Station, a site with sweeping views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline just off the Regatta Boulevard exit of Interstate 580.

Chancellor Dirks announced plans to develop the “global” campus in October, saying it would allow UC Berkeley to partner with universities and corporations on research into problems of worldwide concern. The project had initially been conceived as a part of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, but stalled after federal budget cutbacks two years ago.

The plan has been met with excitement by many in Richmond because of the job opportunities and economic boost the campus could bring to the city. Some 10,000 people will work there daily. Five million square feet of office and lab space will be developed.

But residents also want to make sure the community benefits from the new jobs and opportunities.

One major sticking point is that the project does not include housing, even though the development will likely have a major impact on raising housing costs in the area.

According to the report “Anchor Richmond” by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, more than 9,000 Richmond residents — nearly half of all renters — are low-income tenants overburdened by housing costs, making them vulnerable to displacement as rents rise and wealthier tenants move in.

According to the Association of Bay Area Governments, Richmond will need 742 more affordable housing units over the next eight years. While the city is developing new land use designations in the campus area, some community groups say they remain uncertain that it will meet the new affordable housing demand.

In response to these concerns, a coalition of community and labor groups has pushed the city council to adopt a legally binding community benefits agreement with the university.

The coalition, aided by the Haas Institute, researched ways the community could benefit from the campus, along with the potential impacts the proposed development would have on Richmond. Issues of concern included housing, local hiring, fair treatment of workers, education and business development.

In February, the coalition convened a town hall meeting at Miracle Temple on Cutting Boulevard to educate local residents about the campus and encourage Richmond City Council members Jael Myrick, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez to pass a resolution calling on the university to sign the community benefits agreement.

As part of the agreement, the coalition called for funding for development of affordable housing, training for local workers to get jobs at the campus, a living wage policy for the campus and hiring local workers in the campus’s construction. It also called for a labor policy that would protect current UC Berkeley workers from losing their current positions, investment in local small business, and funding for local students to help receive career opportunities and education.

 

Melvin Willis is an organizer with ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment)

Farewell, Ferrari: A Star Falls At Richmond High

By Joanna Pulido

It was a chilly night in February at the North Coast Section Division II boys soccer championship, and there was Richmond High School computer graphics and animation teacher Mario Ferrari, cheering the home team loudly, clenching the rails of the stands and pacing back and forth with nerves and adrenaline.

His enthusiasm was magnetic. As he jumped up and down, his eyes glowed with excitement. “I was there at the last NCS game they won in 1994,” he said. “I still remember!”

News of his sudden death in his sleep earlier on March 9 has left many at the school contemplating their own memories of him. This was the same man introduced to me five years ago, when I attended Richmond High. I first met him during a reading period, but it was when he attended a couple of my track meets and practiced with me a few times that we became friends. His high energy, optimism and creativity were things that made me happy to be around.

“He had an aura and energy that always impacted people,” said his sister Elena Evans, alternately laughing and crying as she remembered him. “I think he got that from our mother, because I sure don’t have it.”

IMG_6276While attending his memorial ceremony on March 15, it became clear how much Ferrari affected me and many others. He was a colorful character — spontaneous, youthful, noble, artistic and perhaps sometimes goofy. This reminded people to live life with great excitement, full-on force, strong emotion, curiosity and passion.

Of Italian descent but raised in England, he moved to the United States in 1972 as a teenager, Evans said. While here, he attended Contra Costa College before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley, where he obtained his undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in art and printmaking. He began teaching at Richmond in 1993 and never left.

“He spent half his life here,” said John Ohlmann, a fellow teacher in the Multimedia Department at Richmond. “He evolved and grew with the school through the rough times and the better times. He really loved his kids and always advocated for them to have the most current equipment, and he always wanted them to learn the skills that would help them in employment… I can’t see how anyone can replace him.”

IMG_6280When news of his death first reached the school, students gathered to create a large memorial outside his classroom, making drawings, writing letters and bringing flowers and pictures. Some constructed a huge poster that described him as majestic, friendly, energetic, remarkable and intelligent. Among the tributes: a drawing of the boys soccer team with a trophy and the words, “we won NCS for you”.

Both students and teachers continue to deal with their shock and sadness as his absence becomes more real.

“He was part of the Richmond High culture,” said school Principal Jose DeLeon. “It’s really sad.”

Jamey Jenna, another teacher at Richmond, described him as a person who never really had anything bad to say about anyone.

“He was a fun person that never stopped enjoying his job, he never got angry and continued his art life his whole life,” she said.

Ohlmann elaborated on Ferrari’s creativity, which didn’t stop with the visual arts.

“He was a painter, a drummer and a DJ for parties,” Olhmann said. “He would exhibit his art and was once a part of a punk band. We would have long conversations about music… he was always of high interest and new ideas, of how to make things better.”

My own favorite memory of Ferrari comes from 2010, when the school held a fundraising event in which teachers would get hit in the face with cream pies for money. My best friend and fellow Richmond alumni Liliana Ontiveros paid $25 to pie him, but Ferrari was the last teacher to get pied and looked a bit nervous. Ontiveros smashed the first one onto his face, and after three more he became unrecognizable, his face covered in whip cream. But, through that, you could still see a huge smile as he gave a thumbs-up.

“That’s what I remember most about him,” said Ontiveros. “That he had a great sense of humor, and even though he sometimes got upset he would quickly be happy again.”

In my high school yearbook, Ferrari described me as a star in the school universe. But, as I talked to the students and staff at Richmond High, I realized more how he was the star of the school’s universe, and whom many of us will forever remember, miss, appreciate and admire.


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